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“The Wave” by Morton Rhue and “Dead Poet’s Society”, directed by Peter Reis

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Conformity can be defined as an action or behavior in correspondence with socially accepted standards, conventions, rules, or laws. Thus, we are all conformists in a sense. So I pose this question to you: Is it possible to be an individual whilst thinking independently and still conform? The answer? No. You can try to be to be your own ‘unique’ self as much and as often as feel necessary. But you shall not succeed. To my knowledge, there were really only two individuals in history, and these are Jesus and Aristotle. But they were seen as insane fools in their times. So why do we want to be individuals anyway? However, many people nowadays conform without realizing it. An example of this is shown in the novel, “The Wave” and the movie, “The Dead Poets Society” through various techniques.

‘The Wave’ is a story of a schoolgirl experiencing her classmates change from ‘normal’ teenagers into chanting, saluting fanatics, when a classroom experiment goes horribly wrong. Laurie is opposed to ‘The Wave’ and goes against the crowd where she does not join in with the craze. She is standing up for her own beliefs in what she thinks is right, in comparison to the majority of the other students who do what others do, simply for acceptance. Despite this fact, she is still conforming to the so called ‘non conformists’ who are against ‘The Wave’; therefore she is still conforming.

On the other hand, ‘Dead Poets Society’ explores the conflict between freedom and conformity as these contrasting ideals are presented to the students. It is about an inspirational, unconventional English teacher, Mr Keating and his students at “the best prep school in America” and how he challenges them to question conventional views by such techniques as standing on their desks. Keating wants them to become “free-thinkers”, but he is in a way contradicting himself as he forces his own beliefs and philosophy onto the easily influenced students rather than letting them think for themselves. The theme of conformity is introduced in the very opening scenes of the film. Close-ups of the boys chanting in unison, all identically dressed in their uniforms at a ceremony at Welton Academy, we see that they are conforming to the authority of the school. It shows the consequences of conformity when it is pushed to the limit and it also proves that conforming is not necessarily always for the best.

Though, conformity is also a huge factor in real life situations and not only in novels and films. For example, I find it amusing when I see, a girl walking down the street with a plaid skirt over pinstripe stockings with a long silver chain hanging down, and a tight denim vest with patches and pins on every square centimeter. It just screams, “I am an individual and I don’t care what you think!” This is where the mental complex is illogical, and hence ridiculous. First of all, you DO care what I think, or else you wouldn’t bother to dress that way in the first place. It takes time, effort, and intention to dress like that, and you WANT to look that way.

Secondly, is dressing differently than the ‘normal kids’ really individuality? No. You may say you’re not conforming. But the only thing you’re not conforming to is dressing like a select group of other conforming kids. There are tons of other people who dress the way you do, and you’re just another one of them, conforming to a different, separate conformity.

So no, you’re not original. Not in the least. People can deny trying to be like someone else, but it is useless. No one is a full individual. Even after graduating high school, and college, and when you grow out of those stages where you want to dress and be different than the social norm, you may get a job. You have to have certain qualifications, certain skills to work at wherever you desire.

Now, I do not think that an employer would like to see his employee work at his or her job the way he or she feels like working it, or doing things his or her “own way”. Therefore, you are once again obliged to conform to the wants and needs of the system. And the cycle continues.

For instance, the pop-rock band Good Charlotte has a bitter lyric that goes, “I don’t wanna be you, I don’t wanna be just like you.” Now, if they think that singing a song about being an individual and wearing black eye makeup and painting their nails black is original, then good for them. But they’re not! They have a snowflakes chance in hell of being original. It’s simply, hypocrisy. Perhaps they could sing about not wanting to dress like other people. By all means, be my guest. But do not proclaim to the world that you are an individual, because you’re all damn conformists! So unless you are the Son of God, or an ancient Greek philosopher, I suggest you be quiet and concentrate on being the best conformist you can possibly be.

Since individualism isn’t by any means about what you wear, it is hence how you think. And in that case, still no one is an individual. We are always encouraged to think for ourselves, but how is that humanely possible, when from birth we have been forced into education and required to learn and memorize things by watching others, and listening to others, who were also manipulated into doing things we did? The only individual aspect about humans is that we have our own physical bodies. However, we really don’t even own our bodies. According to many, they belong to God, because He created us. Thus, we really have no individuality in or about us whatsoever. So, fellow conformers, you can try to hide the fact you are conforming and you can try to show that you truly are your own person, but, you will never escape the prevailing fact that you are just not an individual. Basically; stop trying to be someone your not, and start being who you really are: like everyone else.

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